BitDepth 699 - September 29

Notes from a talk I gave to the Institute of Surveyors on maintaining a professional presence on the Internet.
Being professional on the Web

The OPTE Project produced this 2005 map of Class-C and above Internet connections, illustrating the Web as an almost organic presence.

Somewhere in the middle of what was turning out to be an extended Q&A session after my presentation, I began to realise that the level of confusion in the room was likely to be quite commonplace.
I'd been asked to speak to a group of civil professionals, that is to say, certified men and woman, if the audience was representative, on the subject "The role of everyday Internet technology in enhancing professionalism."
After gargling on that mouthful for about a week and casting a wary eye toward the warning from the convener of the meeting that a fair number of persons in the audience had, shall we say, weak Internet skills, I put together a presentation that I hoped would be neither infantile nor challenging, quiche, not pablum and hopefully digestible to a room full of real men (and woman).

The terminally curious can find a PDF of that presentation in the collection of preso slides and media I've left in my wake after past speaking engagements
My central thesis to this group of professionals, after dispensing with some Internet basics, is that they should participate more fully in the opportunities for conversation and interaction that the web offers.
Now some of you are probably rocking back and saying, "Well, d'oh." Thanks for your support.
This was a group of intelligent people who have a functioning website for their organisation, but who remain locked into the familiar patterns of communication that remain a lingering legacy of 20th century broadcast and receive media models.

Leveraging the web
Their website had all the elements of a good communication tool, but the arrangement of critical items betrayed the potential of the project. By way of example, useful documents that articulate their association's purpose and principles were offered for download, but the links led to pages that were blocked by passwords.
For too many organisations, a website is a checkbox item, posted and forgotten. This group had done more than that, but their efforts were stymied by a lack of appreciation of the potential for conversation and interaction that are the hallmarks of modern website design.
The inevitable question of the evening came, as it always does. 
"So what should we do?"
"You should start with a blog," I responded.

Which is to say that the organisation needs a mechanism that would allow for easy updating of content by its membership which provides accessible archives for visitors seeking recent or vintage information about the subject matter on which these professionals are expert or seeking news about the organisation itself.
In developing my website, I've used the format to organise collections of text on ten separate pages using the blog format. The primary page, a mix of miscellaneous musings and websites updates, is formally described as the website's "blog." This column is archived on five pages in blog format, each collecting the work by year.
The organisation I presented to was rich with a lot of institutional wisdom and which seemed to need mechanisms to build better, more meaningful connections between members and to drive more communication to peers through the website.
As a happy side effect, I assured them, sharing opinions and information through a publicly accessible medium would begin to draw the attention of their peers, locally and in other countries to their professional mission and offer even richer opportunities for collaboration and informations sharing.

The advice in summary...
• Decide what the organisation can communicate with authority to its peers, colleagues in the industry and the global community engaged in the same professional circles.
• Choose the best, most articulate people within the group to be responsible for crafting that communication.
• Build a web vehicle that makes handling updates by designated members as simple as opening a word processor.
Add useful content on a regular schedule, no less than once a month and more appropriately, once a week.
That, I suspect, along with two aspirins, should do it.
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